Holland to teach sexual diversity

Submitted by ILGA-Europe

Original article: http://www.rnw.nl/english/article/holland-teach-sexual-diversity

Dutch schools are to be required to provide education about homosexuality. Education Minister Marja van Bijsterveldt has finally bowed to political pressure and agreed to the move. Primary and secondary schools will from now on have to devote lesson time to sexual diversity and the existence of lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgenders.

Neddo Siebum leads information sessions at schools about homosexuality. The 18-year-old says they are really needed because the subject is taboo in a great many schools – for both students and teachers. Students who are open about being gay have a difficult time and often face being bullied and teased. There were lessons on homosexuality in the third year at the secondary school Mr Siebum went to.

“The problem in schools is that it’s often invisible. Nothing’s said about it. If someone starts talking about it, they get a name. It’s also about ignorance. There are still a lot of negative stereotypes doing the rounds about gays.”

Not the job of government
Since 2009, there have been repeated calls from MPs for lessons on sexual diversity to be mandatory in schools. Up to now, these have been resisted by the present Christian Democrat education minister and her predecessors. Ms Van Bijsterveldt argued that schools should decide on the issue without government interference. She maintained that not all social problems could be sorted out by making schools include them on the curriculum.

However, she has now given way to the pressure from parliament although the details of what should be taught have yet to be laid down. The Dutch COC gay rights group is pleased she’s changed her mind. Figures show that about two-thirds of schools devote absolutely no lesson time to homosexuality. Vera Bergkamp of the COC:

“You need pressure from the government to change that. It has to be mandatory because young people are experiencing real problems at school. Eighty-one percent of young gay people think it will help. The atmosphere at school is often anti-gay. It’s important that young people know what being homosexual is all about. It’s true that unknown is unloved.”

The COC points out that the number of suicides among young gay people is five times higher than among their heterosexual counterparts.

Christian schools
It’s often thought that homosexuality is not covered at all by Christian schools. The COC says the issue is often a difficult one for these schools, but that they are making an effort.

Even the small fundamentalist Christian SGP party says it doesn’t have a problem with its rank and file devoting teaching time to the subject.

Islamic schools, where almost no lesson time is devoted to sexuality, have yet to respond to the idea of mandatory lessons on homosexuality.

Neddo Siebum hopes it will be the same as at his old secondary school. There, students felt free and safe enough to come out as homosexual:

“It’s an enormous step to come out in front of your classmates. I was able to keep a bit of distance because the COC and the school posed the question: What’s the atmosphere like here at school? It was then that I realised it was really quite good and I dared to take the step and tell my classmates.”

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